Cruise ships, Venice and UNESCO: Controversies for World Heritage Committee
A press conference was presented by Mariarita Signorini, President of Italia Nostra Nazionale, L. Fersuoch President of Italia Nostra – Venice, Alvise Benedetti, and C. Gasparetto, at the Foreign Press office in Rome. Italia Nostra is an Italian nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of the country’s historical, artistic, and environmental patrimony.
The incident of June 2 in the Giudecca Canal, highlighted that Venice is at serious risk. The giant 13-deck MSC Opera cruise ship lost control and slammed into a canal dock in Venice, Italy, with its horns blaring, injuring five tourists.
Mostly everyone seems to agree that large ships should no longer travel along that channel. But there are those who want to keep these ships in Venice, one way or another.
“…about cruise ships in Venice? Eliminating them would be an ‘own goal.’ They must be moved, but not banished altogether.” This is the position taken by the Minister of Mipaaft, Gian Marco Centinaio, on the occasion of a recent press conference held in Rome.
Most of those who love Venice, however, do not know that many other risks endanger the universal values of the site recognized by UNESCO as worthy of being handed down intact to future generations.
Erosion of the lagoon, increasing tourist pressure, high-impact development projects, as well as restorations and interventions of star arches on the monumental heritage all play part of a seeming conspiracy to ruin this UNESCO rating.
Italia Nostra in 2011 and 2012 sent 3 letters with which it signaled to the World Heritage Committee that the conditions for maintaining the site “Venice and its Lagoon” in the World Heritage List no longer existed, due to the lack of protection by the Italian State and local administrations. Following the reports, UNESCO sent a Mission to Venice in October 2015, which was followed by other recommendations that the Italian State only minimally complied with.
In July, a new annual World Heritage Committee meeting will be held in Baku to also deliberate on Venice. Italia Nostra presented observations to highlight the omissions contained in the reports presented by the Municipality of Venice, but above all to highlight the lack of a project on the city.
The large ships that cross the lagoon cause continuous damage that will occur over time due to ongoing degradation. Millions of tourists arriving by many means pour into the area in agony. Increasing hotel demand has generated 10,000 new rooms in Mestre, and a 500-room resort has been opened in the abandoned Lido area.
Historical environments are subtracted from the city – theaters and other structures to be assigned to the hotel sector. Airbnb establishes operations whose turnover is first in Europe, while the masses of tourism pushes inhabitants out of Venice, which loses 800 residents a year, to date reduced below 50,000 people.
UNESCO seems to have forgetten the decisions to limit this phenomenon. The Lagoon cannot support this traffic and will be destroyed within 50 years. The “Moser” water control system that is still unfinished absorbs 100 million euros in maintenance per year. Meanwhile, parts of the canals are crumbling.
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Chioggia, Italy’s first seafarer for the fish trade. has become an LPG gas depot to reclaim Marghera and pollute Chioggia. The Lagoon is sinking to 2.50 meters and will become an inland sea and sewers will then need to be built. It will be an arduous undertaking if UNESCO does not look into the problems of the cities of art. Florence and Venice will not be protected.
The city of Florence opposes the opening of an airport while Italia Nostra supports it, because it will increase tourism. Italia Nostra has turned with “desperate trust” to the UNESCO World Organization believing that the Venice drift can be stopped only with a symbolic gesture, that being just an inscription on the UNESCO danger list.
Now is no longer the time for extensions, granted over and over again. It is time for a responsible decision – a conscious position – which necessitates a rethinking and a change of route.
On the potentially positive side, enrollment on the list of endangered sites could be the first step towards redemption, so that this attention will ultimately obtain more stringent protection. A provocative question from the press to the city of Venice is, “What is the interest of the Mayor of Venice in protecting large ships?”
Italia Nostra, a national NGO, is Italy’s oldest association for the protection of cultural heritage and the environment. Officially recognized by Italian intellectuals and in 1958 by a Decree of the Italian President of the Republic, Italia Nostra was also recognized by a 1987 Decree of the Minister of Environment as an association for environmental protection.